ALJON Mariano is eager to return to action with University of Santo Tomas after completing rehabilitation on his left ankle.
The 21-year-old Mariano has not played any basketball since the Tigers’ heartbreaking UAAP title series loss to La Salle in Season 76 and is now raring to get back on the floor after a two-month process that included removing bone spurs in his left ankle.
“Graduate na ako sa rehab ko, siguro this month, makakapag-practice na ako. Makakalaro na rin ako,” said Mariano. “Excited na ako dahil last na laro ko talaga ’yung UAAP finals. Simula noon, hindi pa talaga ako nag-ba-basketball.”
Mariano’s last game was a demoralizing one for the UST forward, committing the crucial miscue of issuing a wayward pass to Kevin Ferrer in the dying seconds of Game Three that led to Almond Vosotros hitting a title-winning jumper for the Green Archers.
The player became the subject of hateful messages from the UST community, even as his teammates as well as head coach Pido Jarencio came to his defense.
But Mariano said he has put that episode behind him and he now looks forward to suiting up again for UST.
“Excited na akong makabalik para ma-redeem ko sarili ko,” Mariano said, noting that he is more confident now after his rehab.
“Parang nawala ako sa balance,” Mariano said. “Kaya more on strengthening sa paa ’yung ginagawa ko. Iniisip ko, mahirap ang rehab pero kailangang gawin.”
Mariano has also vowed to become more of a team player as he looks forward to inheriting the mantle of leadership for the Tigers following the departure of veterans Jeric Teng and Tata Bautista.
“Ako na siguro ’yung isa sa mga leader kaya dapat mas maging team player pa ako. Kailangan na rin namin mag-rely sa iba pang veterans katulad ni Karim (Abdul), Kevin (Ferrer), tsaka si (Ed) Daquioag,” said Mariano.
Mariano also said he intends to join PBA D-League squad NLEX during the UAAP offseason to get back into game shape.
“Dapat, after ng UAAP, lalaro na ako (sa NLEX) pero pina-check ko ankle ko. Actually, hindi pa namin napag-uusapan ’yung final dahil kaka-recover ko lang sa injury. Siguro mapag-uusapan na uli ’yun,” Mariano said.